You’ve heard of Only Child Syndrome where the only child you have gets narcissistic and spoiled from getting all of mommy and daddy’s attention? What about Other Child Syndrome? Sometimes I feel like I spend so much time thinking, talking and worrying about Sadie (my tiny twin) that her sister Mattie gets short shrift. Mattie’s fat, cute as hell, bursting with life and teeth, walking – in that ridiculously adorable Frankenstein toddle that even intermediate walkers seem to have, chatting (okay mimicking) and by and large being a normal, ready with a smile, baby. But normal doesn’t stand out in this house, normal is for pussies. Normal doesn’t get you attention. In her family of anxious misfits, her downright “I’m not looking for trouble, I just want to be held. Can’t a little lady get some attention?” attitude doesn’t make us come running. The squeaky wheel gets the grease right? Not always. Mattie may be very squeaky but she’s not under weight nor is she under the care of four therapists, a pediatrician and a pediatric GI. Sometimes when one of Sadie’s therapists comes in to “play” with Sadie, Mattie seems almost confused. She wants to play too but she’s in the way and needs to be distracted. What does that feel like for a fifteen-month-old I think to myself sometimes. Is she feeling left out? Will this leave a feeling within her that she’s not as worthy of strangers’ attention as Sadie? Will I always have to be making up to her for all the extra Sadie got? But then, just when I start to really worry, Mattie will find the plastic lid to a coffee can to chew on and it’s like Christmas came early for her. These kids, they’re easily amused.
Then there’s my older daughter, Elby. She is certainly not wanting in the attention department any more than Sadie. I went to special over the top effort to make sure she didn’t feel usurped by the babies omnipresence in our lives when they first came home from the NICU. Elby was in preschool and for the first few months when she’d get home it was like a war zone in the house with two colicky babies screaming bloody murder all afternoon and evening. I felt horrible for her – so once things calmed down, I overcompensated. There was lots and lots of special “mommy and Elby” time (usually involving Target –which usually involved a new toy). I created a monster. Now when I get her from preschool I’m always greeted with a “where are we going today, Mommy?” I know what you’re thinking, “Stefanie, why don’t you try taking her for a walk or going to the park for a little while? She just wants to be with you. It doesn’t have to involve buying her something.” To which I will say to you, “Really?” ‘cause you try telling a four-year-old that for a good time we’re taking a walk around the neighborhood. I’ve tried it and she looked at me like I’d just suggested we go dump all her Barbies in the trash can. Luckily, at four-years-old, Elby is just as happy at the 99 Cents store as she would be at Disneyland. So, yes, I’m still buying her happiness but at least it only costs about $1.98! Not only does she get her attention this way, but she’s also figured out a way to stay a baby in one respect: she will not poop in the potty. I know everyone will have advice for me and I’ve tried it all. The pediatrician says she’ll grow out of it. But for now, she stands out in our house for having the abnormal need to wear a Pull-Up to do her deed.
So, with regards to special attention, Elby and Sadie are set. And now I just have to figure out a way to make things fair for my little Matilda. Maybe Mattie will develop some kind of disorder to pull us away from the other two. I just hope she doesn’t become a biter, fire starter, start drawing disturbing anti-social pictures or worse develop a desire to go into acting. The last thing she needs is her own sitcom, which will eventually lead to a drug addiction which she will instantly parlay into a huge book advance to write her personal memoir, which will obviously blame me.
Damn, I better go start spending some one-on-one time with my “other child” right now.